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Erosion is the
displacement of
solids (soil, mud, rock
and other particles)
by the agents of wind,
water or ice, by
downward or down-
slope movement in
response to gravity or
by living organisms
(in the case of
What causes erosion
amount and intensity of precipitation, the texture of
the soil, the gradient of the slope, ground cover (from
vegetation, rocks, etc.) and land use.
The first factor, rain, is the agent for erosion, but the degree
of erosion is governed by other factors. In general, given the
same kind of vegetative cover, you expect areas with high-
intensity precipitation, sandy or silty soils and steep slopes to
be the most erosive. Soils with a greater proportion of clay
that receive less intense precipitation and are on gentle
slopes tend to erode less.

The factor that is most subject to change is the

amount and type of ground cover
Gravity erosion
Mass wasting is the down-slope movement of rock
and sediments, mainly due to the force of gravity.
Mass wasting is an important part of the erosional
process, as it moves material from higher elevations
to lower elevations where transporting agents like
streams and glaciers can then pick up the material
and move it to even lower elevations. Mass-wasting
processes are occurring continuously on all slopes;
some mass-wasting processes act very slowly,
others occur very suddenly, often with disastrous
results. Any perceptible down-slope movement of
rock or sediment is often referred to in general
terms as a landslide.
Slumping happens on steep hillsides, occurring
along distinct fracture zones, often within materials
like clay that, once released, may move quite
rapidly downhill. They will often show a spoon-
shaped depression, within which the material has
begun to slide downhill. In some cases, the slump
is caused by water beneath the slope weakening
it. In many cases it is simply the result of poor
engineering along highways where it is a regular
Surface creep is the slow movement of soil and rock
debris by gravity which is usually not perceptible
except through extended observation. However, the
term can also describe the rolling of dislodged soil
particles 0.5 to 1.0 mm in diameter by wind along the
soil surface
Water erosion
Splash erosion is the detachment and airborne movement of
small soil particles caused by the impact of raindrops on soil
Shoreline erosion
Shoreline erosion, on both exposed and sheltered coasts,
primarily occurs through the action of currents and waves
but sea level (tidal) change can also play a role

Sediment is transported along the coast in the direction of

the prevailing current (longshore drift). When the upcurrent
amount of sediment is less than the amount being carried
away, erosion occurs. When the upcurrent amount of
sediment is greater, sand or gravel banks will tend to form.
Ice erosion

Ice erosion is caused by movement of ice, typically as

glaciers. Glaciers can scrape down a slope and break up
rock and then transport it, leaving moraines, drumlins and
glacial erratics in their wake, typically at the terminus or
during glacier retreat. Ice wedging is the weathering
process in which water trapped in tiny rock cracks freezes
and expands, breaking the rock. This can lead to gravity
erosion on steep slopes. The scree which forms at the
bottom of a steep mountainside is mostly formed from
pieces of rock broken away by this means. It is a common
engineering problem, wherever rock cliffs are alongside
roads, because morning thaws can drop hazardous rock
pieces onto the road.
Wind erosion

Wind erosion, also known as eolian erosion, is the movement of rock

and sediment by the wind. Windbreaks are often planted by farmers to
reduce wind erosion. This includes the planting of trees, shrubs, or other
vegetation, usually perpendicular or nearly so to the principal wind
direction. The wind causes dust particles to be lifted and therefore
moved to another region.
Wind erosion generally occurs in areas with little or no vegetation, often
in areas where there is insufficient rainfall to support vegetation. An
example is the formation of sand dunes, on a beach or in a desert
Tectonic effects of erosion

The removal by erosion of large amounts of rock, from a particular region

and its deposition elsewhere, can result in a lightening of the load on the
lower crust and mantle. This can cause tectonic or isostatic uplift in the

Materials science
In materials science, erosion is the recession of surfaces by repeated
localized mechanical trauma as, for example, by suspended abrasive
particles within a moving fluid. Erosion can also occur from non-
abrasive fluid mixtures. Cavitation is one example